Did you manage to get a place in London Marathon 2018?
Even if you didn’t, is your goal for the upcoming running season to complete a marathon?
It’s time to start training if you haven’t already.
Have you signed up for a marathon previously and been unable to complete it due to injury concerns?
What is your plan in preparation to training for your marathon?
Setting a new goal of completing a marathon is up there with one of the most difficult challenges you will ever do. Some people commit to it to raise money for someone close to them who have been effected by an illness or disability, some people want to tick it off their bucket list and some people want to beat their previous marathons times.
Whatever the reason, the months ahead will present a long spell of training and commitment needed to be able to get through the big day.
The biggest questions come along the lines of how much running should be done per week, how quickly should I be increasing my mileage and what is the best way to avoid getting an injury?
Like with most things, training should be unique to you and tailored to your experience running, history of injury, current work demands, other commitments and your physical or mental state.
All pillars of performance should be approached from physical, nutrition, recovery, psychological and strength.
Initially it can all be a little overwhelming, but it is important not to forget about the basics of running, like footwear, hydration, clothing and nutrition. Don’t just chuck a pair of old trainers on and off you go. When you start to increase your mileage, if you are wearing poor footwear, you are bound to pick up an injury.
If the footwear you wear frequently look like they are more worn on one side than the other, it is likely you might need some adapted footwear, in which case, a gait analysis is highly recommended. If not, get a good supported neutral trainer as you will be spending a lot of time in them. If you are unsure, it is worth getting your foot posture assessed.
When you start training, the first big thing that you should be thinking about is how you are going to warm up for your runs.
Most runners start off with a fast walk/slow jog and slowly increase the pace, others might pull their legs up to their bottom or chest and swing their hips round and call that stretching. Ideally you don’t want to be using too much energy during your warm up routine as you want to save this for running, but the main aim of a warm up, no matter what the sport, is to prepare the muscles, improve circulation and loosen off tighter muscle structures to enable full joint range of movement. This can be done simply with some active rolling/foam rolling. The foam roller does all of the elements of what a warm-up routine should include. The biggest thing is that you don’t want to be running with tight muscles or reduced joint range of movement, this can be avoided with an adapted warm up. If you feel like you are still running with tight hips, lower back, calves, it is worth getting an assessment by a professional sooner rather than later and you might be able to avoid this going into a more severe injury.
Secondly, runners and other endurance athletes should consider cross training. This doesn’t have to involve joining a gym with a hefty monthly payment or committing to strength classes every other evening. Cross training can be as easy as you want to make it. The idea of cross training is to use the muscles that aren’t primarily used when running so we aren’t creating muscle imbalances and causing injury. For example, strengthening the hamstrings and gluteus muscles. If we cross train correctly, this will have a huge effect on your running times, technique and help reduce the risk of getting an injury. Cross training can be done simply with some resistance bands and your body weight performing exercises such as crab walks and body weight hip bridges. Some runners also benefit from occasional yoga or Pilates group sessions too, with the same approach as trying to improve joint mobility.
It should be common knowledge that when increasing your physical activity, your nutrition and hydration intake should increase too. We need to supply the muscles with the correct nutrients and water to allow the muscles to keep up with the demands and duration of your run. This doesn’t mean you should have 2 burgers instead of 1. Food and drink is your fuel, you need to load your body with the correct ‘fuel’. Planning and preparation is key, unless you are overweight it is unlikely you need to make drastic changes to your diet but start off by analysing what you eat now with a food diary. Do you consume enough calories, do you have breakfast, do you feel fatigued in the evening when you might be trying to go out for a run? If your food is repetitive and boring, you may not be getting enough variety of nutrition. Eat little and often by snacking on healthy snacks such as nuts and natural yoghurts, don’t forget or skip any main meals are where the good nutrition really counts, instead of spending a small fortune on pills and supplements try and ensure you are getting the vitamins and minerals you need in the food you eat, drink plenty water and learn how to drink while you run and last but not least eat for your recovery, you must refuel your body after a run but in the correct way with proteins and nutritious food. If you want to take this really seriously, get professional advice from a sports nutritionist.
Recovery is the most crucial part to your training and has the biggest effect on your run up to the marathon. If our body isn’t recovering as well as it can be, the next run you go on will be effected and then on. If as a runner you ignore the recovery side of training, this is when you are at the highest risk of injury. Recovery has a number of elements but he best way to recover and allow the muscles to return to their normal state is by stretching post-activity, by holding a stretch for 30 seconds after you run this means the muscles are warm and you will benefit from the increased blood circulation reducing the risk of injury, improving joint mobility and flexibility. Stretching will help the muscles recover faster from the micro-trauma that they have just gone through which avoids structures from going into chronic injury phases taking longer to fix. Recovery means to return to what is lost, but to be even more effective, recovery should also help enhance function. Effects of training are delayed for a period of time, sometimes several days after your run; delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Eventually DOMS build up to create increased muscle tightness, effecting the joints and surrounding structures. If ignored, it’s just like adding fuel to the fire. Treat these with occasional ice baths and regular foam rolling.
Recovery days should be focussed around self-massage techniques, dynamic stretching, inflammation recovery and rest. Sports massage is one of the best things for recovery, this is something that isn’t needed daily but recommended fortnightly or monthly especially with an increase in continuous training and physical demands.